Our previous two HTPC build guides (a $475 option and $825 option) utilized Silverstone SUG-series, shuttle-styled cases. These cases are fantastic, but a bit pricey; in an exercise of price-slashing, we assembled a ~$300 HTPC with cheap-but-effective components. This worked out well, and as a result, we'll be posting several HTPC articles over the next month or two (based upon two different builds we did).
A video review accompnies this written review - see below for the embedded video.
This review will focus directly on the case of the cheap HTPC build. Cases are, for some reason, exceedingly difficult for me to choose; I've always debated heavily over case choice. This is, in part, because I'm a proponent of system style and like my computers to have an overarching theme. The theme of this system, though, was dirt cheap. APEX offers their DM-387 minimalistic case for somewhere in the range of $45 (it was on sale for $35 when we picked it up), so it fit the bill; it ships with a 275W PSU, even further accommodating the self-imposed price limitations.
Following up with our guide to picking the best gaming case for your PC, we went on a quest to review more cases and research the facets of system builder personalities. We recently introduced you to the affordable mid-tower Rosewill R5; today, we switch gears and take a look at a high-end gaming case, NZXT's Switch 810 full tower.
Building budget gaming PCs has become a bit of a hobby of ours -- our latest Guild Wars 2 PC build utilized Zalman's Z11 Plus, we've previously used the HAF 22 and 12 cases, Antec's renowned 300, and many more; when we first spotted the Rosewill R5 at PAX East 2012, we were blown away by its promised features and targeted price-point of $70. Things changed, though, and that prototype version had a few more features added to it (and the red LEDs removed) -- as such, the case is now an $80 mid-entry level gaming enclosure.
Evolutions in PC gaming technology make staggering, industry-driving lunges forward with each passing year; somehow, though, enthusiasts continue to demand increasingly-more from hardware companies as time drones on, and luckily, they're listening.
Or, at least, we think they are. Some of them.
3D technology has been around for a long time, but has grown significantly over the years - of late, "3D ready TVs" and "3D movies" have become the latest buzz words, and public opinion seems to slant toward gimmicky and borderline useless. We're here to analyze the uses and pitfalls of nVidia's gaming version of 3D technology, which they've named 3D Vision (we've spoken about it before).
This article is meant to be one of the most in-depth analyses of 3D technology currently available on the web, so that means it's going to be comprehensive and, namely, long. Don't worry, though: we'll be able to convey the positives and the negatives to help your decision making. For your convenience, we've paginated the article into several sections. We've also summarized our opinions, so if you're short on time, start with that and go from there. There is also a TL;DR summary of each major paragraph at the end of the section, so check those out! Let's get to the question on everyone's mind:
How many gamers can honestly say they have a mousepad worthy of their presence? I'd wager my reserved copy of StarCraft 2 that more than 70% of you own either a $3 or a $20 pad (apparently a block of foam/gel costs $17). Brace yourself, and your wallet, because the Razer eXactMat X does not only dominate the letter X, but also the tens and twenties - it's $30.
The Gel Pad for many gamers is a primary concern, as it reduces chance of repeated stress injury, and the eXactMat's gel pad forms to fit your wrist precisely. Unlike a few non-name brands that we've tested here at GN, Razer's wristrest does not seem to degrade and turn hard (like your inflamed tendons) overtime. Razer sells replacement gel strips for $6, so if it gets torn up you can always replace it. The pad is attached to a strip of rubber, which is placed underneath the mousing surface, making for easy replacement and movement. Unfortunately, the major downside on the Razer eXactMat X, other than the randomly capitalized letters in its name, is its size. Get ready to clear some of the soda cans off of your desk, because this wide load wants the room - it's 13" x 10.5". Yeah, a whole freakin' foot wide, that is some serious real estate. Once you find the room though, the mousepad is certainly worth it.
I've actually seen an increase in my ability to play games in two aspects: comfortability, letting me frag longer without wrist pains, also I've seen an increase in my micro/K:D (when I decide to play seriously, and turn down Lonely Island's latest album). No, I'm not saying you'll be OMGFATAL1TY!1! if you buy this pad, I'm just saying it has helped me play better. A good choice for any gamer that is health-conscious, and any gamer who might be looking for a score booster!
The Good: Finally! A mousing surface that is worthy of the title "Gaming Grade", for a price that isn't too much of a punch. Smooth, efficient, double-sided, comes with gel pad, bears the Razer emblem for your bragging rights - this mousepad is a high-end replacement for your "piece of blue fabric with rubber underneath". It may sound funny, but the mousepad seems to work with the G5 easily, detecting the lazer more accurately than other so-dubbed "lazer-sensative mousepads". Rubber-footing on the bottom prevents the surface from moving while you whip your mouse around the desk in intense situations.
The Bad: $30, and since you will likely have to buy it remotely, add in another $5 or $10 for shipping. Yeah, I paid $10 for shipping. The box was big enough to fit a bike in it. Mousepad is somewhat large in comparison to other pads, but it is worth making room in your gaming arsenal. Too many X's, it feels like we're playing tic-tac-toe. Would you name a mousepad MOuseSpOt O? Seriously, we get it.
Overall: Razer has once again established themselves as a truly unique gaming company, offering more than just mice and keyboards. If you're desperate to move on from your deteriorating surface, or just desperate for a score booster, give the eXactMat X a try.
Flashy colored lights seem to be the newest trend in technology. Every other fan, keyboard, and mouse now ship with blue, green, or red LEDs, and depending on the point of view, this either looks cool or blinds the observer. The Logitech G11 keyboard, armed with blue LEDs and two USB sockets, is no different.Equipped with 18 programmable buttons, all on the left side, this keyboard is ready to handle just about any macro you throw at it. The drivers that manage these buttons also permit the user to set three different keysets; this means you can use a different macro grouping for up to 3 different games. Located in the upper-center of the keyboard is a well-placed media control panel. The Media CP includes: A Volume Rotator, Pause/Play, stop, and skip buttons. I find the rotator conveniently positioned and easy to use, not to mention readily available to whirl to the left when that really loud guy joins your favorite VoIP server. It's also useful when you are the last person alive on a team in any generic FPS, because you can effortlessly spin it to the right to hear your opponents' footsteps (without minimizing). Unlike many recently tested keyboards, the media center on this one actually works with your default media-playing program (i.e. Windows Media Player, Winamp, etc.) even when another window is maximized. This enables the user to play/stop or skip songs in a playlist while gaming or 'working.'
Unfortunately, the additional 18 buttons extend the keyboard to the left an extra three or four inches, make sure you have enough desk space. This flaw is countered by the simplicity of mapping the keys using Logitech's built in driver, even while playing games. One of the more obvious issues with having so many new keys is that many of the buttons are simply too far away to use. It ends up being more of a hit to precision and speed to use the distant panels (shown below) than to smash the ability numbers and weapon slots the old fashioned way.
One of the additional issues that comes along with gaining access to an arsenal of new buttons is remembering which does what and where it is. While gaming, it is easy to accidentally push buttons that aren't usually there. For example: I bound G9 to my web browser in hopes of being more efficient, but whenever I minimize or close my game, I am faced with a multitude of unintentionally launched Mozilla apps. It occurred to me that I had been so used to 'Esc' being in the top left, that I had mistakenly pressed G1 thinking it was the escape key. Basically, the keyboard takes some getting used to. The drivers actually ship with some pretty sick "gaming profiles" pre-installed. StarCraft is one of these profiles, wherein the user can find all the macros they will need during an intense game. Like what? Well, hot-selecting your Gateway, training a Zealot, and then building a pylon all with one button.
The blue lights also deserve mention. Each key is backlit with a blue LED (estimated lifespan: 40,000 hours). The LEDs are easily controlled by a button that sets them to one of 3 modes: on (dim), on (bright), or off. I'll give Logitech props here. It's nice to be able to decide if I want them off when there is another light on, or on to break the darkness with an ominous glow when you game at night. Oh, and there are also two USB 2.0 sockets flanking the media CP. Unfortunately, I was unable to plug my mouse and USB hard-drive into these because they draw too much power. However, the ports work perfectly for a simple flash drive.
In the end, it's a keyboard that works. The buffer is boundless, and it has a slanted wrist rest for those who like ergonomics. Another fine piece of work by Logitech, albeit nothing groundbreaking.
The Macro: The $60 keyboard has basic typing capabilities and has a large buffer, allowing the gamers to hold down multiple keys simultaneously. It's not very portable with the additional length from the 18 buttons, although it is extremely durable. I inadvertently crushed it with a heavy XPS laptop, and stepped on it, but it still works flawlessly.
The Micro: While the sound control is nice, it's not a new concept. USB ports are convenient to have, but low power. The additional buttons are generally useful, even though the top and bottom panels of these are simple out of the way, making only about six of them the perfect distance from the user's pinky. Blue LEDs are cool, but not required.
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